SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois has one-eighth of all lead service lines in the United States. Senators approved a proposal Friday night to finally have those pipes replaced.
This plan could create a state grant program to fund the replacement and technical assistance for utility workers. Sponsors say the bill can create up to 11,000 jobs and $115 billion in economic activity each year.
While Republicans support the bill’s intent, some worry about the costs of replacing service lines in every community.
Sen. Melinda Bush explained sponsors requested $550 million from the American Rescue Plan. They also met with Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth to talk about dollars for future funding.
“There’s currently $4 billion for lead replacement moving through Congress through the LIFT Act and an additional $45 billion in President Biden’s proposal,” Bush said.
She also noted significant funding from the Cares Act and the last stimulus bill for water infrastructure to help fund this project.
A fair share of the funds
Still, Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) voiced concerns for areas that may not get the federal dollars for the vital work.
“I have some very serious reservations for many of the smaller communities that many people in this chamber represent,” Rezin said. “Anytime we change standards that force small communities to make huge investments to change to come into compliance with it costs a lot of money. And these small communities do not have or cannot afford to replace the systems.”
Bush said she’d work with Rezin when the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency makes rules and eligibility for the grant program.
“I want to make sure that those dollars don’t go to just big communities. Those dollars really need to go to those rural areas as well,” said Bush. “I’m committed to doing what I can to help with that process.”
The Democrat also thanked the proposal’s original sponsor, former Sen. Heather Steans, for leading through complex negotiations on the legislation.
Senators passed the measure on a 46-10 vote. It now heads back to the House for quick approval of an amendment before going to Gov. JB Pritzker’s desk.
Rep. Lamont Robinson Jr. (D-Chicago) championed this proposal in the House before it passed on a 76-31-1 vote last month.
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